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Recognizing 100 CEOs & C-level Executives

Cecilia Prinster

President & CEO

Colorado Enterprise Fund

Location: Denver

Founded: 1976

Industry: Small Business Lending

Cecilia “Ceyl” Prinster is president and CEO of Colorado Enterprise Fund (CEF), a small business lending company and nonprofit community development financial institution.

“Our purpose is to help level the playing field for people who are economically or socially disadvantaged and have barriers to accessing traditional capital sources,” the company said. “Our mission at Colorado Enterprise Fund is to accelerate community prosperity by financing and supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses. We believe that small business ownership is one of the most effective means of wealth creation and economic mobility for disadvantaged populations, and one of the most significant barriers to entry is lack of access to capital. We operate a loan fund that provides accessible, affordable and flexible capital to small business owners in Colorado.”

Prinster joined CEF in 1987, bringing a background in banking and small business lending with training as a financial analyst and loan officer at United Bank of Denver. “When the opportunity [emerged] to combine the excitement of small business development with my social justice values with this organization, I jumped in,” Prinster said. “However, there were few examples of this model nationally and none in Colorado, so it was up to me to figure out how to balance the risk of lending to non-bankable businesses with an optimism that people could succeed despite the odds.” Prinster connected with other organizations and sources of capital, locally and nationally, that were willing to take the risk to help foster economic opportunity for low-income and minority entrepreneurs. The nonprofit started with a loan pool of about $200,000 and made loans up to $25,000 to businesses in inner-city Denver. A few early successes built the organization’s reputation, and it was able to expand its footprint to metro Denver and eventually to the entire state.

Under Prinster’s leadership, CEF has grown to a capital base of $68 million and a portfolio of 1,000 loans to Colorado businesses, with an average loan size of about $55,000. It offers targeted programs for underserved market segments such as healthy food businesses in food deserts, a Black Business Loan Fund and a loan program for military veterans.

“Our industry of community development finance has grown over the last three decades that I have been at the helm of CEF, and I have always sought to be on the leading edge of new opportunities to partner and learn how to further our mission,” Prinster said. “I have been focused on always finding the next opportunity, going to the next level.”

With Prinster at the helm, CEF has received numerous awards, including the Martin Luther King Business Excellence Award, the National Community Lender of the Year from the Small Business Administration and the Impact Catalyst Award from the Colorado Impact Investing Initiative.

Prinster has been recognized by the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce with the David Bailey Award. The Denver Business Journal recognized her as an Outstanding Woman in Business and also awarded her their Lifetime Achievement Award.

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I was in the first class of women to attend the University of Notre Dame, a previously all-male institution for over 150 years.


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